It’s world food day, so let’s remember the small-scale farmers that feed most of the world

16 October 2014

All over the world small-scale food producers are growing food sustainably for their local communities in spite of the threats thrown at them by the world’s elite and powerful. 

For years, rules imposed by the World Bank and IMF forced many countries to produce cash crops for export, leaving little support for growing food for local populations. More recently, schemes like the G7’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition are pushing through reforms which will make it easier for big corporations to grab land, promote chemical inputs and privatise seeds. For example, the parliament in Ghana will be debating a bill next week that will prevent farmers from saving and exchanging seeds, leaving them little option but to buy seeds each year from big seed companies or face criminalisation for breaking the law. 

I’ve just come back from Rome where I saw this theme of corporate control over food systems reverberate loudly. I attended the Committee for World Food Security and Nutrition (CFS) with governments, civil society, corporations, academics, researchers and various UN institutions . This unique UN body has gained a reputation in the last five years as the most inclusive platform on global food policy allowing civil society groups equal representation alongside multinational companies.

However, yesterday the CFS approved a set of principles around agricultural investment which has aroused global civil society opposition. Many would agree that agriculture needs more support and investment to ensure the world’s food security in years to come, however the key points of contention are investment in what and for whose benefit? 

The principles that have been approved prioritises the investments of multinational corporations, creating for them a conducive environment for market expansion and domination. Meanwhile, millions of small-scale producers have been ignored and marginalised.  There is no support for their own investments to grow healthy food for local communities and no role for public policy to step in and make sure markets work for the most vulnerable.  But the most shocking part of the principles is the sub-ordination of the right to food to global trade deals. The civil society fight back to the US-EU trade deal (TTIP) is already exposing how corporate rights will trump public good and these principles will further reinforce this agenda.

As its world food day, we want to give a shout out the millions of small-scale food producers who feed 70% of the world’s population. Please take this action to stand in solidarity with the small-scale food producers in Ghana and get the UK government to pull out of schemes like the New Alliance. You can also find out more about alternatives to corporate-led agriculture in our A-Z of food sovereignty.


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